If you’re serious about better understanding your chosen career or getting into a brand-new industry, you should consider job shadowing.
While learning from YouTube is great, nothing beats seeing how someone does things in their professional setting.
Job shadowing is when you can follow a worker, watch what they do, and ask questions if you like.
By doing a job shadow, you will see if that type of work is something you would like to do for a career.
However, like with every other career and professional advancement training or program, you must understand how job shadowing works.
In this article, you will learn how it works, its benefits, what you need, and how to have a valuable experience with job shadowing.
What is job shadowing?
Job Shadowing is a planned, short-term period in which you follow someone to observe their job.
During the experience, you will watch a person perform his/her job in a workplace.
Because this is an observation experience, you do not participate. Job Shadowing is an excellent way of getting an up-close look at jobs and careers that interest you.
Before looking for a job, consider what you think about it. Do you have a general idea of what you want to do? Whom do you want to work with?
Between the theory and the practice of the job, there are opportunities that maybe you have never thought about and still know less about. This is called “job shadowing.”
How does job shadowing work?
Being a shadow, the employee will be able to see how their skills are used in the workplace and will be able to watch how workers interact with each other, with the customers, and with their superiors.
Job shadowing may occur over one day, a week, or several weeks. The length of time depends on the goals of the job shadowing program.
It’s not the same as an internship, though job shadowing can sometimes lead to an opportunity for further on-the-job training.
You might be paired up with just one person or be rotated through several different people within the same organization.
In either case, you’ll likely have a chance to ask questions and discuss what working in that job entails.
Job shadowing is typically done through an organized program offered by your high school, college, university, vocational program, or local business organization.
However, in some cases, you can also arrange a job shadowing experience by contacting a company directly and requesting a few hours of observation time with one of their employees.
Types of job shadowing
It depends on your chosen industry, your host company’s resources, and the work shadowing placement you will experience.
However, job shadowing can take three primary forms. They include:
This is the most common form of job shadowing, allowing employees to experience another position firsthand. You get to carry out some of the tasks that you have observed.
It’s generally best for employees who are interested in a particular position and can take time to learn the new role’s responsibilities.
In this case, employees don’t participate in the process but rather follow an employee around throughout the day so that they can experience their daily activities without becoming directly involved.
Observation is best suited for employees interested in learning more about other roles and becoming familiar with them before committing to a fully hands-on approach.
Consider regular briefings if you don’t have much time but still want to provide a job shadowing experience.
Employees will still gain familiarity with other positions, but they won’t have as much hands-on experience as they would through traditional job shadowing methods.
Why job shadowing?
The purpose of job shadowing is for students to get a clearer picture of a potential career.
It is up to the student to research and learn as much about the job as possible before embarking on the opportunity.
Students should take advantage of the time with the host by asking questions and learning as much as possible.
The goal is to understand what the job entails, what skills are needed, and if it seems like something they would be interested in pursuing.
In addition, if you’re looking for a new career, a job shadowing opportunity can also be used as a networking opportunity that may lead to a job offer or even an apprenticeship.
What are the benefits of job shadowing?
Students gain new perspectives on different careers by “shadowing.” They can learn about a specific role or potentially see other roles within an organization that they might want to explore further.
Through job shadowing, students can:
1. Learn about different jobs and industries
Job shadowing is a great way for students to learn about jobs and industries. They will get a feel for the work environment and see what it’s like to work in a certain field.
It benefits students eager to learn about different careers and jobs.
It will allow one to experience firsthand the day-to-day tasks required at a place of work, deepen their understanding of career options, and establish connections with mentors.
2. Recognize their strengths, interests, and abilities
Job shadowing can be a useful way to help students increase their job readiness by exposing them to the workplace, clarifying their career interests, building professional skills, and increasing their self-awareness of their strengths, interests, and abilities.
3. Increase knowledge about the expectations of an industry
A perfect opportunity to get a taste of the natural world and make informed decisions about your future. A job-shadowing experience lets you see what it’s like to perform a certain job.
You can ask questions about the day-to-day responsibilities, work environment, and necessary skills.
Talking with someone in a position you are considering for your career can increase your knowledge of the industry’s expectations and help you decide whether that field holds potential for you.
4. Develop an understanding of a typical day on the job
Job shadowing is invaluable to a student. Participants gain practical knowledge they can’t get from a textbook.
It helps you develop an understanding of a typical day on the job. You will be able to clearly understand what their day would be like on the job.
5. Give students confidence in their career choices
Job shadowing can also help you determine whether one department or career path would be better.
For example: if you’re a software engineer considering becoming a product manager, you might shadow someone in that role to get some hands-on experience with the work.
6. Discover the skills and education needed for specific careers
With job shadowing, students can “try out” a prospective career field and observe what’s involved.
They understand the skills and education needed for that profession and acquire more comprehensive knowledge about their career options.
Effective job shadowing tips for interns and employees
1. Research the company and position
You need to know what kind of company you will be working for. Find out about its history, vision and mission, current projects or products, and anything else that interests you.
If possible, find out what kind of expectations your supervisor has for you so you can prepare yourself as well as possible.
2. Dress appropriately
For men, this means making sure your suit is clean and pressed and that your shoes are polished and in good condition.
For women, this means wearing a skirt or pantsuit with low heels and minimal jewelry. Make sure your hair is neat, and you’ve shaved or put on makeup if appropriate.
Don’t wear too much cologne or perfume; people may be sensitive to strong scents.
3. Show up on time
If you’re job shadowing during the day, try to arrive at least 15 minutes early — not to block other people’s morning commutes, but so that you can get some work done beforehand.
Your arrival time will be less important at night if it’s past midnight, but try to show up at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time.
4. Go prepared with questions in advance
When asked why you want the job, don’t make it sound like an afterthought.
You want to show enthusiasm and curiosity, but don’t forget how much you know about the company and its products if they’re hiring interns or new employees.
5. Speak clearly and concisely
Speaking allows others to understand what you are saying. An even volume keeps others focused on what you are saying rather than straining to hear you or tuning out because they can’t hear properly.
Speaking with an even tone reduces distractions caused by overly loud or quiet speech or other vocal issues that can detract from understanding.
6. Respect those you are shadowing
One of the key points in job shadowing is respect. Don’t even think of interrupting them while they are working or asking inappropriate questions while they are busy with their tasks.
You’re not there to show off your new ideas and suggestions. It’s a place where you need to be quiet and calm to learn.
7. Make notes
You won’t remember everything you see, so make a list of everything you see.
This can be useful for creating an action plan for when you return to your desk and may even help if the person you have been shadowing needs someone to fill in for them while they are away.
8. Ask for feedback
If possible, ask the person you have been shadowing what they thought of your performance and take any constructive criticism on board. It will reassure them that they did not waste their time.
Questions to ask when job shadowing
- What would you say you like most about your job?
- How did you get into this field?
- What educational background is required for this job? What kind of training is necessary?
- How much does someone in this position typically make? What factors influence their pay (i.e., education, location, years of experience)?
- What are some goals that people in this career have? Are there some steps they take to achieve those goals?
- How does your company measure success for this position?
- What is the hardest thing about this work?
- How many people work on a project from start to finish? Who are they?
- What has been a big challenge for you in the last few months? How did you solve it?
- How long have most people been in their roles here?
Is job shadowing only for new employees and students?
Job shadowing is for anyone eager to learn about a job, profession, or career. Job shadowing offers an excellent way to learn about your field while building relationships and gaining valuable experience.
How can you find someone to shadow?
Start by reaching out to people with a career or position that interests you. Let them know you would love to shadow them and why you chose them.
To make a good impression, research the company beforehand and have some questions ready for your host.
Not all job shadowing is the same. It can vary in length, depth, and frequency. While many people have a very positive experience with job shadowing, it isn’t for everyone.
College students and professionals looking to gain on-the-job experience should consider job shadowing.
If you’re looking for a new career or an appealing company, there is no better way to get inside information than job shadowing.
To further help you have a successful career, here are the most valuable career development goals you should set for yourself to achieve.
I believe this article helped shed some light on the benefits of job shadowing and provided an alternative if you are at a dead-end in your current position.
I wish you all the best in your career.
Thank you for reading.